At the beginning of 2014, joy was not really a quality I possessed. I tended to only have happiness in my heart when things were going the way I wanted them to go. But the greatest thing the Lord has taught me this year – this semester, especially – is that His plans are wildly better than any I can dream up on my own.This year He proved that to me in big ways – especially with my coming to Christopher Newport this fall, which was maybe my 4th choice out of the six colleges. I arrived bitter, joyless, ready to transfer out, and overall just really unpleasant. I knew that God wanted me there, at least for that one semester, but I wasn’t excited to see what he had in store for me.And then I was superbly wrong, because the Lord showed up in really big ways. (To be perfectly honest, bigger ways than I ever expected from Him.) He answered my prayers in tangible, clear ways. He brought me to friends, to Cru, to a Bible study with girls who mentor me.I’m still overwhelmed by the outpouring.None of it was what I expected from God and none of it was involved in my original plans, but it was what I didn’t realize I needed. And I truly feel like my heart has become more light since coming here. My happiness is more centralized on Jesus and less centralized on people.It was coming to somewhere where I expected nothing, yet received everything, that I realized where the unwavering joy really comes from. I’ve finally started understanding how the prodigal son must have felt when returning to the feast, expecting to be a servant but being welcomed back as a son.Joy comes from harboring an attitude that we don’t deserve anything. It comes from the expectancy to receive everything that comes as a gift. Joy stems right out of gratitude, and gratitude doesn’t depend on our circumstances.It’s from our daily decision to say yes to Jesus, the knowledge that at the end of the day, we are the King’s children no matter how badly the broken world has treated us that day.I’ll leave you with this song, because it’s a testament to God’s faithfulness and coming full-circle in teaching me about the joy of Himself. For joy, I say, listen to the Lord and know that He is both faithful and good, and that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)Tidings of comfort and joy!!-e
Ellie DuHadway is a freshman at Christopher Newport University, and is studying Studio Art and English. Her favorite Christmas tradition is wearing ugly Christmas sweaters as much as humanly possible during this lovely and ugly-sweater-inspiring season.